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G.R. No. 201716 January 8, 2013 Emeterio M. Tarin and First Councilor Cesar O.

Cervantes assumed
the posts of mayor and vice-mayor of Viga, Catanduanes, replacing
MAYOR ABELARDO ABUNDO, SR., Petitioner, vs.
ISSUES: Whether Abundo has consecutively served for three terms
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and ERNESTO R. VEGA,
despite the fact that he only served the remaining one year and one
Respondents.
month of the second term as a result of an election protest.
VELASCO, JR., J.:
RULING: NO. The consecutiveness of what otherwise would have
FACTS: For four (4) successive regular elections, namely, the 2001, been Abundos three successive, continuous mayorship was
2004, 2007 and 2010 national and local elections, Abundo vied for effectively broken during the 2004-2007 term when he was initially
the position of municipal mayor of Viga, Catanduanes. In both the deprived of title to, and was veritably disallowed to serve and
2001 and 2007 runs, he emerged and was proclaimed as the winning occupy, an office to which he, after due proceedings, was eventually
mayoralty candidate and accordingly served the corresponding declared to have been the rightful choice of the electorate.
terms as mayor. In the 2004 electoral derby, however, the Viga
municipal board of canvassers initially proclaimed as winner one Jose The three-term limit rule for elective local officials, a disqualification
Torres (Torres), who, in due time, performed the functions of the rule, is found in Section 8, Article X of the 1987 Constitution, which
office of mayor. Abundo protested Torres election and proclamation. provides:
Abundo was eventually declared the winner of the 2004 mayoralty Sec. 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which
electoral contest, paving the way for his assumption of office starting shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for
May 9, 2006 until the end of the 2004-2007 term on June 30, 2007, more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length
of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for
or for a period of a little over one year and one month. the full term for which he was elected. (Emphasis supplied.)

Then came the May 10, 2010 elections where Abundo and Torres and is reiterated in Sec. 43(b) of Republic Act No. (RA) 7160, or the
again opposed each other. When Abundo filed his certificate of Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991, thusly:
candidacy for the mayoralty seat relative to this electoral contest,
Torres lost no time in seeking the formers disqualification to run, Sec. 43. Term of Office. x x x x

the corresponding petition, predicated on the three-consecutive (b) No local elective official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms in
term limit rule. On June 16, 2010, the COMELEC First Division issued the same position. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not
a Resolution finding for Abundo, who in the meantime bested Torres be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which
the elective official concerned was elected. (Emphasis Ours.)
by 219 votes and was accordingly proclaimed 2010 mayor-elect of
Viga, Catanduanes. To constitute a disqualification to run for an elective local office
pursuant to the aforequoted constitutional and statutory provisions,
Meanwhile, herein private respondent Ernesto R. Vega (Vega)
the following requisites must concur:
commenced a quo warranto action to unseat Abundo on essentially
the same grounds Torres raised in his petition to disqualify. RTC (1) that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive
ruled that Abundo have already served three consecutive mayoralty terms in the same local government post; and
terms, to wit, 2001-2004, 2004-2007 and 2007-2010, and, hence,
disqualified for another, i.e., fourth, consecutive term. Therefrom, (2) that he has fully served three consecutive terms.
Abundo appealed to the COMELEC, where the RTC order has been It is true that Sec. 8, Art. X of the Constitution as well as in Sec.
affirmed. MR at COMELEC en banc was denied. Hence, this instant 43(b) of the LGC, voluntary renunciation of the office by the
petition with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order incumbent elective local official for any length of time shall NOT, in
(TRO) and/or preliminary injunction. Meanwhile, Vice-Mayor determining service for three consecutive terms, be considered an
interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the The prohibited election refers to the next regular election for the
elective official concerned was elected. The qualification is same office following the end of the third consecutive term and,
voluntary interruption as distinguished from involuntary hence, any subsequent election, like recall election, is no longer
interruption which may be brought about by certain events or covered.
causes.
(3) Conversion of a Municipality into a City
Situations based on jurisprudence wherein such consecutive terms
The conversion of a municipality into a city does not constitute an
were considered or not considered as having been "involuntarily
interruption of the incumbent officials continuity of service. The
interrupted or broken.":
Latasa case: This Court believes that (Latasa) did involuntarily
(1) Assumption of Office by Operation of Law
relinquish his office as municipal mayor since the said office has been
This contemplates a situation wherein an elective local official fills by deemed abolished due to the conversion. However, the very instant
succession a higher local government post permanently left vacant he vacated his office as municipal mayor, he also assumed office as
due to any of the following contingencies, i.e., when the supposed city mayor. Unlike in Lonzanida case, where petitioner therein, for
incumbent refuses to assume office, fails to qualify, dies, is removed even just a short period of time, stepped down from office, petitioner
from office, voluntarily resigns or is otherwise permanently Latasa never ceased from acting as chief executive of the local
incapacitated to discharge the functions of his office. government unit. He never ceased from discharging his duties and
responsibilities as chief executive of Digos.
It is not enough that an individual has served three consecutive
terms in an elective local office, he must also have been elected to (4) Period of Preventive Suspension
the same position for the same number of times before the
Preventive suspension should not be considered an interruption
disqualification can apply. (see Borja case)
that allows an elective officials stay in office beyond three terms. A
(2) Recall Election preventive suspension cannot simply be a term interruption because
the suspended official continues to stay in office although he is
Socrates case: Hagedorn had been elected and served as mayor of
barred from exercising the functions and prerogatives of the office
Puerto Princesa City for three consecutive terms. Obviously aware of
within the suspension period. The best indicator of the suspended
the three-term limit principle, Hagedorn opted not to vie for the
officials continuity in office is the absence of a permanent
same mayoralty position in the 2001 elections, in which Socrates ran
replacement and the lack of the authority to appoint one since no
and eventually won. However, midway into his term, Socrates faced
vacancy exists. (see Aldovino case)
recall proceedings and in the recall election held, Hagedorn run for
the formers unexpired term as mayor. Socrates sought Hagedorns (5) Election Protest
disqualification under the three-term limit rule.
Court here have differing ruling in Lonzanida case and in Ong case.
In upholding Hagedorns candidacy to run in the recall election, the Court illuminates why such difference in the ruling in this wise:
Court ruled:
The difference between Ong and Lonzanida is at once apparent. For
After Hagedorn ceased to be mayor on June 30, 2001, he became one, in Lonzanida, the result of the mayoralty election was declared
a private citizen until the recall election of September 24, 2002 when a nullity for the stated reason of "failure of election", and, as a
he won by 3,018 votes over his closest opponent, Socrates. consequence thereof, the proclamation of Lonzanida as mayor-elect
was nullified, followed by an order for him to vacate the office of
mayor. For another, Lonzanida did not fully serve the 1995-1998
mayoral term, there being an involuntary severance from office as a
result of legal processes. In fine, there was an effective interruption 6. When an official is defeated in an election protest and said decision
of the continuity of service. (see Ong case) becomes final after said official had served the full term for said
office, then his loss in the election contest does not constitute an
Summary of Rules:
interruption since he has managed to serve the term from start to
1. When a permanent vacancy occurs in an elective position and the finish. His full service, despite the defeat, should be counted in the
official merely assumed the position pursuant to the rules on application of term limits because the nullification of his
succession under the LGC, then his service for the unexpired portion proclamation came after the expiration of the term (Ong and Rivera).
of the term of the replaced official cannot be treated as one full
Back to the case:
term as contemplated under the subject constitutional and statutory
provision that service cannot be counted in the application of any In the present case, the Court finds Abundos case meritorious and
term limit (Borja, Jr.). If the official runs again for the same position declares that the two-year period during which his opponent, Torres,
he held prior to his assumption of the higher office, then his was serving as mayor should be considered as an interruption, which
succession to said position is by operation of law and is considered effectively removed Abundos case from the ambit of the three-term
an involuntary severance or interruption (Montebon). limit rule.

2. An elective official, who has served for three consecutive terms There can be no quibbling that, during the term 2004-2007, and with
and who did not seek the elective position for what could be his the enforcement of the decision of the election protest in his favor,
fourth term, but later won in a recall election, had an interruption in Abundo assumed the mayoralty post only on May 9, 2006 and served
the continuity of the officials service. For, he had become in the the term until June 30, 2007 or for a period of a little over one year
interim, i.e., from the end of the 3rd term up to the recall election, and one month. Consequently, it cannot be said that Mayor Abundo
a private citizen (Adormeo and Socrates). was able to serve fully the entire 2004-2007 term to which he was
otherwise entitled.
3. The abolition of an elective local office due to the conversion of a
municipality to a city does not, by itself, work to interrupt the An involuntary interrupted term, cannot, in the context of the
incumbent officials continuity of service (Latasa). disqualification rule, be considered as one term for purposes of
counting the three-term threshold.
4. Preventive suspension is not a term-interrupting event as the
elective officers continued stay and entitlement to the office remain While the declaration of being the winner in an election protest
unaffected during the period of suspension, although he is barred grants the local elected official the right to serve the unexpired
from exercising the functions of his office during this period portion of the term and here Abundo was declared winner in the
(Aldovino, Jr.). protest for the mayoralty seat for the 2004-2007 term, Abundos full
term has been substantially reduced by the actual service rendered
5. When a candidate is proclaimed as winner for an elective position
by his opponent (Torres). Hence, there was actual involuntary
and assumes office, his term is interrupted when he loses in an
interruption in the term of Abundo and he cannot be considered to
election protest and is ousted from office, thus disenabling him have served the full 2004-2007 term.
from serving what would otherwise be the unexpired portion of his
term of office had the protest been dismissed (Lonzanida and Dizon). As a final note, We reiterate that Abundos case differs from other
The break or interruption need not be for a full term of three years cases involving the effects of an election protest because while
or for the major part of the 3-year term; an interruption for any Abundo was, in the final reckoning, the winning candidate, he was
length of time, provided the cause is involuntary, is sufficient the one deprived of his right and opportunity to serve his
to break the continuity of service (Socrates, citing Lonzanida). constituents. To a certain extent, Abundo was a victim of an
imperfect election system. While admittedly the Court does not
possess the mandate to remedy such imperfections, the Constitution
has clothed it with enough authority to establish a fortress against
the injustices it may bring.

Also, more than the injustice that may be committed against Abundo
is the injustice that may likewise be committed against the people
of Viga, Catanduanes by depriving them of their right to choose their
leaders. Like the framers of the Constitution, We bear in mind that
We "cannot arrogate unto ourselves the right to decide what the
people want" and hence, should, as much as possible, "allow the
people to exercise their own sense of proportion and rely on their
own strength to curtail the power when it overreaches itself." For
democracy draws strength from the choice the people make which
is the same choice We are likewise bound to protect.

WHEREFORE, Petitioner Abelardo Abundo, Sr. is DECLARED


ELIGIBLE for the position of Mayor of Viga, Catanduanes to which he
was duly elected in the May 2010 elections and is accordingly
ordered IMMEDIATELY REINSTATED to said position. Withal,
Emeterio M. Tarin and Cesar O. Cervantes are ordered to
immediately vacate the positions of Mayor and Vice-Mayor of Viga,
Catanduanes, respectively, and shall revert to their original positions
of Vice-Mayor and First Councilor, respectively, upon receipt of this
Decision.

Interruption vs Renunciation: To interrupt is to obstruct, thwart


or prevent. When the Constitution and the LGC of 1991 speak of
interruption, the reference is to the obstruction to the continuance
of the service by the concerned elected official by effectively cutting
short the service of a term or giving a hiatus in the occupation of the
elective office. On the other hand, the word "renunciation" connotes
the idea of waiver or abandonment of a known right. To renounce is
to give up, abandon, decline or resign. Voluntary renunciation of the
office by an elective local official would thus mean to give up or
abandon the title to the office and to cut short the service of the
term the concerned elected official is entitled to.